Joy Reid Is Facing a Revived Defamation Lawsuit in California Over Facebook, Instagram Posts

By A.J. Katz Comment

Joy Reid has had a pretty great July up to this point. She received a significant promotion at MSNBC, host of the network’s weekday 7 p.m. hour. Her program, The ReidOut, launches Monday.

But not everything is roses for the veteran TV newser.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, a California appellate court has ruled that Reid will face a defamation lawsuit over a woman’s claim that in Reid’s social media posts, she falsely accused her of making racist remarks at a June 2018 city council meeting in Simi Valley, Calif. The woman making the libel claims against Reid is a Trump supporter named Roslyn La Liberte.

The plaintiff, La Liberte, is contending that in one of Reid’s social media posts on Instagram, she defamed her by attributing racist remarks to her based on the photo below.

Reid retweeted an activist named Alan Vargas who had posted the above picture along with the caption, “You are going to be the first deported.” In a second post on Instagram, she wrote that the woman in the photo had screamed, “You are going to be the first deported … dirty Mexican!” Then, on Instagram and Facebook, Reid wrote, “Make the picture black and white and it could be the 1950s and the desegregation of a school. Hate is real, y’all. It hasn’t even really gone away.”

The appellate court ruling reversed a district judge’s decision from last September which stated that the case against Reid should be dismissed. According to the district judge, La Liberte couldn’t demonstrate that Reid acted with actual malice when she had wrongfully wrote that the woman had screamed “dirty Mexican.” (The minor in the photo gave an interview to a local station where he stated La Liberte was trying to keep things “civil.”) Since public figures must show actual malice in order to prevail on libel claims, La Liberte’s suit had failed, said the district judge.

However, the three-judge appellate court panel in this case disagreed, writing: “Accordingly, she was not required to allege that Reid acted with actual malice as to either post. Moreover, the court erred by characterizing Reid’s second post as nonactionable opinion. … That post could be interpreted as accusing La Liberte of engaging in specific racist conduct, which is a provable assertion of fact and therefore actionable.”

The appellate court also ruled that the case could not be thrown out under California’s anti-strategic lawsuit against public participation (Slapp) statute, which is designed to prevent plaintiffs from stifling free speech via litigation. The judges found that the California law was “inapplicable” in federal court because “it increases a plaintiff’s burden to overcome pretrial dismissal.”

However, California’s Second Circuit agreed with another part of the district judge’s ruling—that Reid is not protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That provides immunity to sites for content posted by third parties. “To the contrary, she is the sole author of both allegedly defamatory posts,” the judges wrote.

It remains to be seen what happens next.

MSNBC is declining comment.

Click here for the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit full opinion, via THR.

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